Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Three Cheese Tortellini (Slow Cooker)

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Ours was very good – we saw family and friends, and had a nice, low key weekend. This week, however, is going to be a busy one! Between weddings, traveling for work, and other commitments, Nick and I will be like two ships passing in the night, so I decided to take it easy yesterday and make a nice, easy, slow cooker meal. 

Last week I had stumbled upon a recipe for a Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Tortellini on the blog Cooking Classy. It looked delicious, so I printed it out and decided to save it for a good weekend day – which as it turned out was sooner than expected! 
The soup is two big steps. The first is easy – you add everything but the tortellini and let it cook.
The second step, when everything is done cooking, is to add it to a blender (or in my case food processor) and blend until creamy. This had to be done in batches, so with each blended batch, I added it to a big mixing bowl until it was all done, then transferred it back to the slow cooker. 
All-in-all, I was very pleased with this recipe, and really only had three things to note – 
1. Make sure you season this with salt and pepper. I mean really season it – more than you think you should. I kept tasting it while I was seasoning it and it just needed more salt and pepper than I realized.
2. The original recipe says it has 8 servings, and they aren’t kidding. That is 8 generous servings. In hindsight I would use only two cans of tomatoes for the base – especially because there are only two of us.
3. The ‘Max Fill’ line on the food processor is not merely a suggestion. I didn’t even think I went that much over it, but holy crap. There was tomato basil soup EV-ERY-WHERE!
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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Three Cheese Tortellini (Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy)
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 3/4 c. diced carrots
  • 1 3/4 c. diced yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 (32 oz) carton vegetable broth
  • 1/3 c chopped fresh basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 16 oz refrigerated three cheese tortellini
  • 3/4 c heavy cream
  • Parmesan, shredded (for serving)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS:
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onion, saute for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
2. Pour vegetable mixture into a large slow cooker along with tomatoes, vegetable broth, basil, bay leaves and sugar. Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-7 hours, or HIGH for 3 – 3 1/2 hours.
4. Remove bay leaves then puree mixture well with a emulsion blender.
5. Stir in tortellini, cover and cook on HIGH for 15 minutes longer. Reduce heat to warm, stir in heavy cream.
6. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Enjoy!
Cheers!
Heather

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Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Over Zucchini Noodles

I absolutely love cooking and spending time in the kitchen, but sometimes after a long day at work, I love coming home and having minimal things to do, including cooking dinner. In the past I would never have things planned, or I would work late and have no desire to take the time and energy to cook the things I did have planned, and that would end up causing me to order something unhealthy for dinner.


Since making meal planning a priority (and I still can definitely be better about it), I am trying to incorporate at least one crockpot meal into my week. I look for the days that I have a lot of meetings that could cause me to work late, or just be tired after work, or for the days when I know I need to run a lot errands and could potentially be very hungry by the time I finally get home after a long day of work and errands. I designate that day my to be my crockpot meal day!

Yesterday was definitely that day – back-to-back meetings all day long, in combination with the fact that I’m hobbling around right now due to dislocating my knee over the weekend. I went in early for a meeting, and stayed late to catch up on email and get a couple things done that I didn’t have time to do during the day. Luckily, I love my job, but it was just one of those very busy and long days.

Knowing that my Wednesday would be that, on Tuesday night I did all my prepping for dinner the night before. I knew I wanted to make Crockpot Chicken Parmesan, so prepped the chicken, cheese and marinara in the crockpot, and stored it in the fridge. I thought I would try using zucchini noodles to be healthier, make sure I was getting some good greens in, and just have a fun experiment to see if it would work!

I spiralized my zucchini using ‘Blade B’, otherwise known as the blade that give you wider noodles, then I broke them up into bite sized pieces. Egg Zoodles!

I got the zoodles all spiralized, cut up, and stored them in an airtight container next to the crockpot – everything was ready to go for the next day!

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan doesn’t take a full day to cook, even on low, so I was lucky enough that it was an off-shift day for my boyfriend so he was home to put dinner in for us around lunchtime. When I got home the kitchen smelled delicious, and all I had to do was “cook” the egg zoodles.

I was a little nervous about cooking the zoodles, but I’ve cooked enough zoodles at this point to know that 3-5 minutes in some broth would soften them up just enough, but not overcook them. I just boiled some seasoned chicken broth, and tossed the zoodles in for 5 minutes.

The end result was great! Of course they weren’t noodles, and yes you could tell, but they tasted great with the chicken parm, and provided a great, healthy alternative to a classic comfort food!

As for my meal planning, I’m still perfecting. Someday I will take the time to dice, spiralize, and portion out everything for the week on a Sunday (probably after football season is over, to be honest), but it’s the small changes that end up making a difference, so I’ll keep sharing any tips and tricks I learn along the way!

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Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Over Zucchini Noodles

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Zucchini’s, spiralized (Blade B)
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, thawed
  • 1/2 c Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • One whole egg
  • Mozzerella cheese slices
  • One jar of your favorite marinara sauce (or homemade)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1. Using two bowls, whip the egg into one bowl, and combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan into the other bowl. Add in a few shakes of salt and pepper to your bread crumb mixture for extra seasoning.
2. Take your chicken and coat each side with egg first, then with the bread crumb and Parmesan mixture. Place chicken in crockpot.
3. Top each chicken breast with a slice of mozzarella.
4. Top chicken and cheese with marinara sauce, and cook on low for 5-6 hours. 
5. Once your chicken is done cooking, in a medium saucepan bring water or chicken broth to a boil. Add in your zucchini noodles and cook for 3-5 minutes, until ala dente and warm. 
6. Serve the chicken Parmesan over the zucchini noodles and enjoy!
Cheers!
Heather
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Zucchini Noodle Carbonara with Pancetta & Egg

I’m back on the healthy eating route after a fun weekend away, and last night I set out to try another spiralized recipe – Healthy Zucchini Noodle Carbonara from the Inspiralized food blog. At this point I’m fairly certain that I’m going to like most zucchini noodle recipes, and this one was no exception.

This particular recipe had me at the picture of the egg on top. Runny yolks are soooo yummy on foods, and eggs are such a great source of protein!


This recipe also called for cubed pancetta, however when I did my grocery shopping for the week, last night, my local grocery store I frequent only had pancetta slices, so I had to cut up the pancetta. For the record, Target carries cubed pancetta. I saw it last week and thought to myself that I should buy it for this particular recipe, and am kicking myself that I didn’t. But none-the-less, it was still delicious!

Light, but filling on flavor, I was very impressed with this dish. The pancetta, onion and garlic gave it a great, light flavor, which was perfect for me after a weekend of eating unhealthy and filling food.

Also, a big timesaver that I’ve got a lot better at is going through the ingredients and getting everything out, and everything prepped that I can (i.e. dicing the onions, spiralizing the vegetable, etc.). It makes cooking go so fast and easy, instead of running around the kitchen trying to get things out and ready in the middle of cooking.

 

 

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Zucchini Noodle Carbonara with Crispy Pancetta & Egg (Recipe adapted from Inspiralized)
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. diced red onion
  • 1/2 c. cubed pancetta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 zucchini’s, Blade C
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Once the oil heats, add in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds, add in the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onion softens.
2. Add in the pancetta, stirring often, until cooking through – about 5 minutes.
3. Once the pancetta is done cooking, add a medium skillet over heat and crack two eggs. Let them cook until the egg whites set.
4. While your eggs are cooking, add the zucchini noodles to the pancetta, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
5. Stirring frequently, let cook for 2-3 minutes and then add in the Parmesan cheese. Toss the noodles with the cheese and then plate into bowls. Top each bowl with one of the eggs.
Cheers!
Heather
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Chicken & Chickpea Broccoli Noodle Salad with Feta & Lemon Dressing

I swear that with each new spiralizing recipe I try, I fall more in love with spiralizing. I feel like a broken record – constantly proclaiming that I’ve ‘found the best recipe yet!’ as we’re eating dinner. Things get even more interesting on the evenings that I spiralize a new vegetable for the first time, and it’s successful. Last night was no exception!


I have many recipes on deck to try from my main go-to food blog, Inspiralized, but I pulled this one to the front of the mix when a girlfriend of mine cooked it and couldn’t stop singing it’s praises – Chicken and Chickpea Broccoli Salad. I have been having a chickpea craving, so this was a perfect light dish to make before I head out of town for the weekend, where I will inevitably eat and drink way too much.

I had never spiralized broccoli before so I made sure to read through not only the recipe, but the section of the Inspiralized blog that talks about how-to spiralize broccoli. It seemed pretty common sense since I’ve been spiralizing for a few months now, but why wouldn’t I read what the expert has to say, and make sure that I’m doing it right?

Side note: I am a BIG fan of creating your own recipes, or variations of your favorites, however I consider myself wise enough to know it’s important to make sure you know what you’re doing first, then have fun!

I listed the recipe below and linked to the original, as I usually do, but wanted to note a few differences from my experience:

– I grilled the chicken for this recipe since the weather was still so nice out, but however you prefer to cook your chicken is fine.

– I had two big broccoli stems and didn’t feel it gave me quite enough noodles for two people, so I spiralized a small zucchini I had and tossed it in with the broccoli and peas to cook for 2-3 minutes (See step 2 below). It worked great, gave me a little more ‘noodles’, and is great filler if you don’t think you have quite enough broccoli.

– The original recipe called for shallots, which I did not have, so I used 1/2 cup of green onion instead. The dressing was AMAZING!

– I cooked all of these things simultaneously so that the meal was warm. I have this thing that a cold pasta salad = side dish, and can’t quite wrap head around it being the whole meal.

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Chicken & Chickpea Broccoli Noodles with Feta & Lemon Dressing (Recipe adapted from Inspiralized)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 boneless chicken breast (approximately 1 lb)
  • 3-4 big broccoli stems, spiralized using Blade C
  • 3/4 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup cooked green peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste

    For the dressing…

  • 2 tbsp basil, chopped
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 shallot or 1/2 c green onions
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS:
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and grill until chicken is cooked through, dice, and set aside.
2. Place a medium pot filled halfway with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the broccoli noodles, peas, and chickpeas and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the broccoli noodles are softened and cooked al dente. Drain and set aside.
3. Place all of the ingredients for the feta dressing into a food processor and pulse until creamy.
4. Place the noodles, peas and chicken in a big bowl, then add in the dressing. Toss to combine and enjoy!

Cheers!
Heather

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My Favorite Green Smoothie

I am absolutely obsessed with green smoothie’s right now. To some people they look ‘gross’, but in reality it doesn’t take much to make a smoothie green, and if you do it right, it doesn’t have to taste like a green vegetable.


I personally love greens. From raw to cooked veggies, to fresh pressed juice, to smoothies; I’m willing to give it a try, and chances are, I’m going to love it. Recently I went to a little local coffee shop downtown for lunch and was excited to see they had a green smoothie. Man alive – it was deeeelishous! I was in love. I started averaging about 3-4 smoothies a week, and at $5.35 a piece, it was adding up. I took a week of ordering smoothies and paid close attention to the process – what kind of milk did they use, and how much of each ingredient did they put in?

It was pretty simple, so off to the store I went – organic coconut milk, bananas, baby spinach and pineapple. I think it’s fair to say that when you try to recreate something at home, it may taste similar, but it never really tastes the same, but I was determined. Simple, fresh, and easy ingredients, it couldn’t be that difficult, and it wasn’t!

A handful of baby spinach, one banana, 1-2 chunks of pineapple, and 3/4 cup of milk – amazing smoothie! And for as green as it is, it doesn’t taste a thing like spinach! This is one of the many benefits to drinking green smoothies – it’s a great way to sneak in fruits and vegetables without even realizing it. If you Google ‘benefits to green smoothies’ you’ll get  hundreds of different reasons they’re good for you – from retaining the full vitamins and fiber of what you’re drinking, to them being low calorie – there are many reasons green smoothies are recommended.

Personally, I can tell you that without even realizing it I have unintentionally cut out my daily diet soda at lunch and replaced it with my green smoothie. I have went from drinking 1-2 cans of diet soda per day, to maybe 3-4 per week. In turn, I have noticed that have natural energy during the afternoon, and I’m feel much more full off of healthy ingredients. I have noticed that I consume much less soda at home and more water.

Green smoothies are EASY! There are lots of recipes on the web for you to try. Mix and match – see what works for you and what doesn’t. I have a NutriBullet that I love, but all you need a simple blender.  My advice? Blend your fruits and veggies, then add 5-6 ice cubes and blend again to make sure it’s nice and cold. Also, I blend my smoothie before work and put it in the fridge to have for lunch and it still tastes great!

Cheers to better, healthier choices!
Heather

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Baked Lemon Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce & Roasted Parmesan Green Beans

In my quest to meal plan and eat healthy I am constantly combing through numerous food blogs, and last week I was on a salmon kick. I think I ended up with around 12-15 salmon recipes to try, and last night we tried the first one – Baked Lemon Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce. I had most of the ingredients at home, and with us traveling this weekend I was eager to use up what I already had at home.

I stopped by the grocery store and picked up two ‘fresh’ salmon fillets (as fresh as you can get in Iowa, that is), and home I went to make dinner.
This recipe was incredible, and SO EASY! It definitely is now a staple in my house, along with the Parmesan green beans. I probably made too much of the creamy dill sauce; I’m a bit obsessed with condiments, but any leftover sauce can easily be used on most other meats.
I found the recipe on the food blog ‘Cooking Classy‘ – a blog I have not got to fully explore, but am looking forward to delving in to!
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Baked Lemon Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce (Recipe from ‘Cooking Classy‘)
INGREDIENTS:
  • 4, 6 oz salmon fillets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

    Creamy Dill Sauce

  • 1/3 c fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2-3 tsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp honey
DIRECTIONS: 
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
3. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and place salmon fillets in the dish. Season the top of salmon with salt and pepper, then rotate to opposite side. Drizzle the top of salmon with the oil and lemon mixture, then season the top with salt and pepper.
4. Let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes, then bake for 15 minutes, or until salmon has cooked through.
5. Serve warm topped with Creamy Dill Sauce.
For the sauce…
1. In a bowl mix together Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, dill, and honey. Add just enough milk to reach your desired consistency.
2. Taste test! If needed, add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
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Roasted Parmesan Green Beans
INGREDIENTS:
  • Green beans, trimmed
  • Garlic salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. For easy cleanup, place aluminum foil on a baking sheet, and place green beans on sheet.
3. Drizzle with olive oil, and then season with garlic salt and pepper, shaking the pan to keep coating all sides of the green beans.
4. Cook for 10 minutes, then shake the pan around to rotate the beans.
5. Cook for 5 more minutes, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve!
Cheers!
Heather
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Easy Provencal Lamb

 

I LOVE the Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten. Her meals are elegant, yet simple and attainable to any home cook, and that was exactly the way I felt when I decided that I wanted to take the step from someone who loves to eat lamb, to someone that wants to cook lamb.

I first saw the recipe for Easy Provencal Lamb on Chrissy Teigan’s blog So Delushious, and within a week I had contacted a local meat guy from our year around Farmers Market and ordered my leg of lamb.
I had most of the ingredients already stocked in my house, so I knew this was going to be even easier than I had originally thought. The hardest part of this recipe was simply just dicing the tomatoes and onions – and let’s be honest, that’s not difficult at all. Once the fruit and vegetables were diced, it was as simple as preparing the dish for the oven!

A couple hours in the oven, and wha-la! Lamb perfection!

Once done, I sliced up the medium rare juiciness, topped it with the tomatoes and onions, and served to a very eager audience!
I will say that having never made lamb, I followed Ina’s recipe to a tee just to make sure that I did it correctly. Lamb is not an inexpensive meat, so it was important to me, to get it right.  You can link to the recipe here, or print the below page!
Cheers!
Heather
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Easy Provencal Lamb (Recipe from Ina Garten)
Servings: 8
INGREDIENTS: 
 
  • 1 (6-7 pound) bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed and tied
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp chopped garlic (9 cloves, divided)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 pounds ripe red tomatoes, 1-inch diced
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c honey, divided
  • 1 large Spanish onion, sliced
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the leg of lamb in a large roasting pan, fat side up and pat it dry with paper towels.
3. Combine the mustard, 1 tablespoon of garlic, the rosemary, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a mini food processor and pulse until the garlic and rosemary are minced. Spread the mixture on the lamb.
4. Place the tomatoes, olive 1/4 cup of the honey, the onion, the remaining 1 tablespoons garlic, 2 tablespoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a bowl and toss well. Pour the tomato mixture around the lamb and tuck in the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Drizzle the lamb with the remaining 1/4 cup of honey.
4. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and roast for another 1 – 1 1/4 hours, until a meat thermometer registers 130-135 for medium-rare. Place the leg of lamb on a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
5. Discard the herb stems and return the tomatoes to the oven to keep warm. Slice the lamb, arrange on a platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with the tomatoes and pan juices spooned on top.
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